Celebrate and Include Your Grandmas in Your Wedding Ceremony

by Jennifer Cram - Brisbane Marriage Celebrant © (15/11/2020)
Categories: | Inclusive Weddings | Wedding Ceremony |
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Grandma flower girls
                      wearing matching slate blue gowns and scattering
                      white rose petalsFlower grandmothers, also referred to as flower grannies, flower grandmas, and flower nanas, are a recent departure from wedding ceremony "tradition", a rethinking of the role that never fails to make us ooh, ahh, and smile. All it took was for one couple to think outside the box and come up with something that now seems to be almost obvious, even though no-one had done it before.

But asking your grandmothers to be your flower girls is only one of many ways to include all four grandmothers in your ceremony. As in my posts about including both mothers and both fathers in your ceremony, some of these ideas have been inspired by same sex weddings, where things tend to be different, as couples side-step traditional wedding planning advice and create their own traditions.

While I have largely referred to bride and groom in the following, all of these suggestions work for two brides or two grooms.

First look

The First Look is a very popular photo-op. Before the ceremony, in private, the groom gets to see the bride and the moment is captured by the photographer. It is a wonderful way to calm wedding day nerves. Going one step further and having a first look with your parents and your nanas, is pretty special too. To be inclusive, after the two of you have had your first look moment, bring your groom's parents and grandparents into it. This might break with tradition, but gives both sets of parents and grandparents a chance to see both of you before the ceremony starts, and the bride's parents and grandparents a chance to see the groom, and share a few words, before other guests see him.

Grandmothers as members of the wedding party

The photographs and videos we are seeing suggest that it is exclusively the bride's grandmothers who are taking an active role as part of the bride's half of the bridal party, either as flower nanas, or as bridesmaids. With mixed wedding parties becoming more common, and couples choosing people who mean a lot to them, regardless of gender, we are seeing fewer instances of the groom's sisters or the bride's brothers being included as courtesy members of wedding parties strictly divided on gender lines. So including the groom's nanas in his half of the wedding party becomes a no-brainer.
  • Flower nanas
    You can always rely on your nana to do an accomplished and professional scattering of petals. Send them down the aisle first and feel the level of excitement and anticipation go off the charts, because, as well as delighting and entertaining, it sends a powerful message that your wedding is not going to be predictable or boring.
  • Nanas as bridesmaids or groomswomen will always have your back. If you have a mixed age wedding party, the answer to coordinating outfits is to go with same fabric, individual styles. 
  • Nanas as ring bearers
    While the tradition has long been a little girl to scatter flowers plus a little boy to carry the rings, there is no rule that one ring bearer carries both rings. You can have as many flower girls and ring bearers as you wish, in any combination. Bonus is that you can trust your nanas with the real rings!

The processional


In many cultures the bride and the groom are separately escorted to their wedding by their extended family, a custom that can be easily adapted for a formal processional, even if your nanas are not going to be taking an active role as flower nana, bridesmaid/groomswoman, or ring bearer.

How you would structure the processional is a matter of personal choice, but a general principle would be to have those closest to you walk closest to you - as in the traditional processional where the father of the bride escorts her and her maid of honour walks either immediately before or after her.

Alternatively, you could, in a gesture of support and solidarity, have the bride escorted by both her father and the groom's father, and accompanied by all four grandfathers, and the groom escorted by his mother and the bride's mother, and accompanied by all four grandmothers.

Grandmothers as witnesses

While the number of legal witnesses is strictly limited to two (one each) there is no 18sunset clause on age. As long as your nanas are at least 18 they qualify!

Warming of the rings

A heart-warming ritual is the warming of the rings, where guests or selected people are invited to hold the rings and make a (silent) wish for the happiness of the couple. Asking selected members of your family to do this allows those wishes to be spoken aloud, if you wish.

Presentation of the rings

Invite your nanas to present your rings to you. It can be done in more than one way, each of which has its own inclusive feel because, when the rings are presented each of you will be receiving the ring you will place on your beloved's hand
  • Your own nana presents to you the ring that you will place on your beloved's hand
  • Your soon-to-be nana-in-law presents to you the ring that you will place on her grandchild's hand.

Including nanas in a ritual

In addition to Warming of the Rings, there are a number of rituals (sub-ceremonies) that are a perfect way to include grandmothers
  • Rose Ceremony
    One version of the Rose Ceremony involves presenting roses to both mothers as an expression of gratitude. Expand that to include your grandmothers. 
  • Handfasting
    Nanas can be included in a handfasting ritual in a number of ways - from presenting the cord/ribbons, to being involved in the actual handfasting.
  • Sand Ceremony
    There are numerous ways the grandmothers (and other members of the two families) can be included in a sand ceremony

Giving your grandmas an active role in the ceremony

In a civil ceremony, there is no requirement for the celebrant to do all the talking! You can involve your nanas by giving them active speaking parts
  • Deliver a reading
    Work with your nana to choose a reading that reflects her personality and the role she has played in your life. It doesn't have to be a poem! Or choose something that can be delivered as a duet.
  • Ask those "I do" questions
    Even better is you leave the wording to her.
  • Lead you through your vows
    As long as you say the required legal words, there is no requirement that you repeat them after your celebrant. Having your nana feed you the lines can be a special experience that will make for wonderfully emotional photos.
  • Deliver a blessing for your marriage
    Blessings by family elders have been part of human relationships since the dawn of time. Such a blessing can be entirely secular, or can reference a deity. Including a religious blessing in an otherwise secular ceremony is a loving way to acknowledge your nana's beliefs.

Ask your nana to gift you her skills

Instead of buying everything you need for your ceremony tap into your nana's skills. For most of the 20th century, for example, nanas would use sewing, embroidery, knitting and crocheting skills to provide items for the wedding. It was common to gift the bride a linen handkerchief with a lovingly crocheted edging. Is your nana an embroiderer? Ask her to make you a bag for your rings, embroidered with grub roses. If she's a knitter, she might like to knit your ring bag. I've seen that beautifully done by a grandma well known for keeping all her grandchildren supplied with a knitted sweaters regardless of how fast they grew. Or ask her to make you an embroidered or crochet ring cushion.

Pro Tip: A ring cushion does not have to be small or square. I've seen a ring cushion made from a traditional cross-stitch wedding sampler. And, beautifully executed by a grandmother whose hobby was Jacobean style crewel work, a large square cushion. After the wedding either could be used as a cushion in the home, or, backing removed, framed.

When your nana has dementia

Unless it is advanced, having dementia would not necessarily preclude your nana from attending your wedding and participating in it if she can do so safely. It does, however, take careful planning, which may include
  • Appointing someone to be your nana's ceremony buddy, someone whose only role is be with her, to guide her, to explain what is happening, and to keep her calm and comfortable.
  • Choosing a role for her that is within her capabilities. It might be something as simple as holding your bouquet for you. Pro Tip: With someone to shepherd her, in my experience presentation of the rings is well within the capability of a grandparent with dementia. Nothing to remember ahead of time.

It matters not a jot that your nana might not remember her participation. You will have given her a moment of joy, a moment captured in photos that you can share with her again and again, each time giving her another moment of joy.

When your grandmother has passed away

Getting married without your grandmother present is always bitter-sweet. You can honour her in numerous ways
  • Carry, wear, or use something of hers in the ceremony, for example, a tablecloth on the signing table.
  • Have your celebrant say a few words
  • Light a memorial candle, incense, or lay a flower in front of her photo at the beginning of the ceremony.
  • Leave an empty chair and lay a flower on it

Related posts

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